Today I fished alone. By choice.
It felt good to be out on the river with just my thoughts and a fly rod. Don't get me wrong, I love my fishing buddies, who doesn't? Even so, I find that every so often I have to fish alone. Not sure why, it just feels good to be away from humanity for a while, especially during those weeks when it seems like you are constantly surrounded by people.
I'm a bit of an introvert so I enjoy being alone for large chunks of time. Fishing by nature, is a great hobby for me as I often like to spend inordinate amounts of time totally alone. To me there's no greater joy than being completely removed from society, fishing a small stream somewhere in the mountains, throwing dry flies to enthusiastic trout. I can do this all day, and often do so. In fact, if it weren't for the need to eat and sleep, and the peculiar truth that the sun always disappears everyday. I'm not sure I would ever stop fishing. Maybe when I ran out of flies, maybe.
Fly fishing is one of the only activities that I can think of that captures my complete attention, thought and emotion. When fishing I sometimes seem to lose all conscious thought. Call it meditation, or whatever you want, I just know it happens. Whether it be stalking a big picky riser during a trico hatch. Throwing a streamer to a slot where you know the cast, the retrieve, everything has to be perfect. Fishing hoppers on a small stream in the spot you know that big brown lives, and you know you will only get one shot at him. Or dissecting pocket water on a mountain stream, where your casts have to fit into a space the size of a coffee cup. I get lost in those moments, completely charged, alert, focused, free from thought, alive.
It's those "spots of time" that I and I think most fishermen seek. It's everything that leads up to the eat. It's the stalk, the cast, the drift, the head coming up, the mouth opening...
When you fish alone you really get to work a riffle, run, or pod of fish exactly how you want to. You have to trust your judgment, pick your own flies, figure out things on your own. Nobody's there to help. Fishing alone brings it's own rewards and challenges. It's rewarding when you finally figure out what those fish are eating, or discover a new "secret" spot. Challenging when you catch a nice fish and try to take a picture.
When you fish alone, you see a lot more than when you're with other people. You just do. Today I noticed a Great Blue Heron rookery, a stonefly hatching on a streamside log, deer crossing the river, the sounds of blackbirds, and caught sight of a woodpecker going to work on a snag. Fishing alone, I'm just that much more aware of my surroundings, my environment and how truly alive it all really is.
A day of fishing alone brings with it a feeling of rejuvenation. It's hard not to feel good after a few hours on the water. I've never come back mad after fishing. Tired maybe, a little sunburned, dehydrated yes, but never mad. If you get mad while fly fishing you need a to pick a new hobby, sorry, you just do. Why do you think I stopped golfing?